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The Challenge of Managing Different Generations Within the Workplace

Many management teams recognize their younger workers certainly have different ideas, aspirations and working styles than older employees. It can be difficult for any firm to manage teams that vary in age, but recognizing the differences between the generations could help firms better understand their workers, ensure employees are as productive as possible, customize training options, and keep them satisfied with their positions. 

Increasingly, Older Employees May be in the Workforce Longer 
The recession hit many families hard and wiped out savings and investments for a great deal of individuals. This means some people who had plans to retire within the past several years may be holding off on their decision to leave the workforce in order to save some extra money. Businesses are still hiring older workers, even with concerns about age discrimination and being overly qualified for a position running rampant among individuals approaching middle age. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the unemployment rate for men 55 and over recently dropped to 6 percent, while women of the same age also experienced a drop in unemployment numbers. 

Young Workers Desperate for Jobs 
While older workers may be concerned about finding jobs, younger individuals are also increasingly desperate for positions. Many new graduates leave college with massive amounts of student loans and no way to pay them back, making it essential for them to quickly find jobs that allow them to meet their financial obligations. The latest reports indicate unemployment among people aged 20 to 24 years was at 13.1 percent in February, while those 25 to 34 years old saw an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. This significant difference could be attributed to various factors, including education or even generational attitudes about jobs and the workplace

The Major Differences Between Older and Younger Workers 
There are obvious differences between employees of different generations, but which stand out the most? A new research report from talent measurement leader SHL indicated older workers are more loyal to their workplaces than their young counterparts. The data showed that while 65 percent of baby boomers plan to stay with one company for their entire career, only 20 percent of millennials think the same. 

Loyalty isn't the only difference between younger and older workers. Younger workers are more motivated by career progression and personal growth, while baby boomers seek reward and recognition, according to the report. Millennials also seem to have more determination when it comes to future career growth; the data revealed that while one in 11 young workers show strong "leadership potential," only one in 13 members of Generation X and one in 16 baby boomers have that same trait. 

"It is critical that managers, despite the affinity towards their own generational group, identify and fully understand the differences between the age groups within the context of their workplace," said Eugene Burke, chief science and analytics officer at SHL. "Designing and deploying the right talent measurement program can ensure that organizations stay on track, balancing the need to manage for generational motivation and performance today, with the need to identify and groom leaders for succession tomorrow. Their corporate survival just might depend on it."

While some may see younger employees as more willing to progress quickly and become strong corporate leaders, others may find their attitudes aren't quite right for a workplace. A study from the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania revealed some managers and HR professionals feel millennials come off as unprofessional, while many also thought their young new hires had a sense of entitlement.

Managing Multiple Generations Effectively 
One of the most important aspects to ensuring employees of different generations work well together? Understanding their differences and tailoring projects or rewards to meet their expectations and desires. This can help keep workers of all ages more satisfied with their work and ensure they aren't driven to leave a firm due to processes that don't suit their outlook or ambitions. It's important to remember that all generations have talents and skills they bring to the workplace - while older employees may have strong work ethics and professionalism standards, young hires may be eager to embrace new technology and streamline processes. However, keeping track of all worker performance with analytics-based performance management can help guide employees and help managers recognize where their teams can improve.

"Sustaining career progression is the singular challenge facing organizations today," said Burke. "Companies need to develop a plan to energize and retain talent that takes into account the diverse interests of varied generational groups in today's workforce - boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. If they don't, they risk fracturing the knowledge transfer from incumbent leadership to new leadership and falling short on the ROI of their talent programs over time as retention withers among top performers."

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